Yuval Steinitz speaks to 'The Jerusalem Post,' March 15, 2015.
(photo credit: SAPIR PERETZ)
The smiles that accompanied the announcement on Thursday of parameters for an Iranian nuclear agreement in Lausanne between the world powers and Iran are detached from reality, Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said in Jerusalem’s initial reaction to the development.
The reality, Steinitz said, is that Tehran refused to make any concession on the nuclear issue and continues to threaten Israel and all other countries in the Middle East.
Even before the press conference in Lausanne where the announcement was made, the Prime Minister’s Office posted the following message on Twitter: “Any deal must significantly roll back Iran’s nuclear capabilities and stop its terrorism and aggression.”
The tweet was posted above a map with arrows leading from Tehran to Yemen, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq under the headline, “Iran’s aggression during the nuclear negotiations.”
Government officials made clear that Israel will continue publicly fighting against the deal, emphasizing Iran’s aggressive behavior throughout the Middle East even at a time when it does not yet have nuclear capabilities.
“At a time when the representatives of the world powers were shaking hands with the Iranians in Lausanne, Iran continues its campaign of occupation and terror in Yemen and throughout the Middle East,” another government official said.
Steinitz said that since Thursday’s declaration was a long way from being a full agreement, “we will continue in our efforts to explain and convince the world in the hopes of preventing a bad deal, or at least introducing changes and improvements.”
Even before the parameters were presented, Steinitz joined senior Israeli officials who in recent days began speaking about the possibility of Israeli military action, after months in which the idea had not been spoken about publicly.
Asked on Israel Radio whether Jerusalem would consider a military operation even against US opposition, Steinitz said, “If we have no choice, we have no choice.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has hinted in recent days that Israel would not feel bound by any agreement eventually signed, but Steinitz’s words were the most explicit in a while that Israel had definitely not taken the military option “off the table.”
“I don’t want to talk about a military option, other than to say that it exists,” he said.
“I just want to say one thing, when we had no choice and needed to attack and destroy the reactor in Iraq [in 1981], that was against the US position.
“When talking about our national security,” Steinitz continued, “it is our responsibility and duty to defend the state, and if the world has other ideas or illusions or agreements that do not ensure our security, we will need to weigh very carefully what to do.”
Steinitz said that Israel is working on the diplomat and intelligence levels, and that – if it is necessary – will leave the military option on the table.
Meanwhile, in an interview with Israel Hayom
, Maj.-Gen. Nimrod Sheffer – the head of the IDF Planning Directorate – said when asked whether he could imagine a situation where Israel would bomb Iran against US wishes, that “since it happened in the past, I have no reason to believe it won’t happen again.
“If ultimately an agreement is in fact signed, we will have to ask ourselves, ‘Okay, what are we going to do with this?’” he said. “If someone builds a bomb and at the same time declares that Israel has no right to exist, we have to think about how to respond.”
If Israel feels its existence depends on taking action, it will do so, Sheffer said.
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, interested in being either the foreign or defense minister in the next government, issued a statement calling the announcement “peace in our time, 2015,” a reference to Neville Chamberlain’s infamous statement – “peace for our time” – which he said when returned from the Munich Conference in 1938. Less than a year later Hitler invaded Poland, plunging Europe into World War II.
“The world’s most radical Islamic terrorist regime received today an official kosher stamp for its illicit nuclear program,” he said.
“This is a regime that cannot be trusted and which has already violated consecutive UN resolutions. Today’s deal paves the way for Iran to eventually obtain a nuclear weapon, to further destabilize the Middle East and to continue spreading terror across the globe.”
Bennett said it is important to stress that “deal or no deal, Israel will do what is needed to protect itself and its citizens.”